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 These days, I mostly post my tech musings on Linkedin.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanmcgrath/

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Invisible, silent background backup of key files every day

I have made a little tweak to my backup strategy on my Thinkpad T42P that runs Ubuntu.

The way I see it, the bit most likely to go kaput is the hard disk so copying key files off of the hd every day is a good idea.

Now, I'm not guaranteed to be online all day so backing up to the cloud or the mother ship is not always an option. I don't have a floppy drive and even if I did, it would be too small. I have USB slots but memory sticks protrude out of them. I end up taking them out of the slot to put my machine in its bag yada yada. I have a CD-RW but I cannot dedicate that to doing backups as I use it during the day for other stuff.

Soooooo...I got a 256MB Compact Flash thingy and put it in a PCMCIA adapter. It sits completely inside the form factor of the T42P which means I can slot it in and just forget about it.

Cron now takes a backup every day of my key files to the CF. Unseen, unheard and completely hands (and thought) free. All I need to do is remember from time to time to check the log to make sure its still working as planned.

This is not a substitute for using online backup daily of course. After all, if my laptop gets stolen the CF is gone as well as the HD. But it does give me the confort of knowing that all my short-cycle backup eggs are not in the same basket.

The only fly in the ointment is this thing about CF devices having a write limit. I'm not sure how many write operations I expend in copying about a dozen files and I don't know what the magic number write limit on my card is yet.

If anybody is interested, setting up the CF on Ubuntu was just a matter of adding this to /etc/fstab:

/dev/hde1 /media/compactflash vfat defaults 0 0

The device appeared as hde1. I created /media/compactflash as a mount point. And off it went.

Quick: How many planets are there in our solar system?



So now New Horizons is heading to a large asteriod I guess.

Time to break out the global search and replace tools.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Microformats are beautiful

Eve has a great writeup on this years XML Summer School in Oxford, complete with some pics. Eve mentions that I defended Microformats and at one stage described them as "beautiful".

Yes I did say that and yes I meant it! My reasons for believing this are not written down anywhere yet but they will be some day. They will include:-

  • thoughts on the semiotics of markup and the (merely) apparent ontological distinction between element type names and attributes for semantic denotation.
  • thoughts on the human psychology of content creation, publication and viewing
  • thoughts on the application of steganography to document semantics using fixed-schema viewers (e.g. browsers)
  • thoughts on the underwhelming takeup of client side XSLT transforms
  • thoughts on the diachronic nature of "correctness" and implications for the use of CF grammars to capture "correctness"
  • thoughts on the linguistics of XML Grammers and a comparison with Chomskyan Universal Grammars versus actual language usage
  • thoughts on the Wittgensteinian aphorism that "language is use" and how it can tell us a lot about how real world instances of artifical computer based languages work and where their true semantics come from.
  • thoughts on the concept of document "validation" as a continuum rather than a discrete yes/no metric.
  • thoughts on comparing the resistance to microformats to the resistance 10 years ago to XML from some quarters of the the SGML world
  • thoughts on comparing the resistance to HTML 15 years ago from some quarters of the the SGML world
  • thoughts on the non-draconian validation model of browsers
  • thoughts on the lessons we can learn from HyTime versus HTML about the power of powerful esign pattern of "leaving stuff out".
  • thoughts on the applicability of the microformatting concept to any fixed-schema editing environment
  • thoughts on the application of XML process pipelining to "have our cake and eat it too." in a microformat-centric world.

All of which will be fun, if time consuming to write. For now, I will just say this:

  • Microformats are happening. Deal with it.
  • Remember that Worse is often better.
  • Remember the S curve of Disruptive Technologies
  • A complex ssemantics-driven publishing system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple ssemantics-driven publishing system that works. (With apologies to John Gall of Gall's Law fame).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

Django gets the nod

It is reported that Django has just become *The* Python Web Framework. Interesting. Buzz was certainly heading in that direction and the buzz will now become louder I suspect.

I'm happy that one of them has been chosen. We have no way of knowing how many would-be Python developers over the years have looked elsewhere because of the "primordial soup" feel that the vista of Web App Frameworks presented.

Don't get me wrong, having lots of diversirty and choice and innovation is fundamentally good. However, for the newbie, healthy diversity in an ecosystem can be interpreted as chaos. The trick is to get the newbie "in the door" with the simple picture of order and clarity. Then they will be suitably adjusted to appreciate the diversity that thrives underneath.

Unfortunately, we will now see some silver-bullet syndrome in action. Apps which are perfect candidates for Zope/Plone being developed on top of Django because Django is The Framework, is one possible outcome.

Parenthetically,isn't it just plain gobsmackingly weird how object databases just cannot get a hold in the mainstream computing mindset?